I spotted this the other day by Browns convenience store in the village of Llandogo on the Wye valley.
Creeping Jenny is a bit of an old fashioned garden plant, plants do have fashions, and some like Asters, Larkspur, Love in the Mist, and Michaelmas daisies are a bit from a time gone by and others like Bamboos, Alliums and Heucheras are more in vogue, sometimes referred to as being contemporary. Anyway I regard Creeping Jenny as typical of old fashioned rockeries wet areas and hanging baskets.
Creeping Jenny is often described as a garden escape or as being naturalised although it is actually a native plant. This particular plant was very interesting in that it was actually in the act of escaping! The photograph below shows it squeezing its way under the garden fence and breaking free into the great wide world.
Had it actually escaped? Well I do not think it had totally completed its break for freedom. The stems under the fence were still connected to the captive plant growing back inside the garden. The plants do root at intervals along the stem, at the nodes, and this one had almost certainly put down roots beyond the fence boundary and were as such established in the free world.
Should the owners of Browns store one day dig up the Creeping Jenny growing inside their garden, which I suspect they will not, and thus sever the connections to the liberated plants on the outside, then the plant beyond the fence line could truly be described as having escaped. However they might also venture round to the outside of the fence and tidy up the spreading plant and then of course the escape attempt would become a failed escape plot.
Enough of this Colditz of the wildflower world. Creeping Jenny is a perennial plant and is a member of the Primulaceae family, being most closely related to the Loosestrifes. Its closest relative is Yellow Pimpernel which is very similar but just smaller and more delicate. The leaves of Yellow pimpernel are more pointed and in Creeping Jenny they are more heart shaped. Also the individual petals (5) of Yellow Pimpernel are separate whereas in Creeping Jenny they are larger and more robust and overlap one another. Yellow Pimpernell starts to flower quite early on in the year, March April time and Creeping Jenny does not really get going until May.
Seriously though one can never distinguish between an escaped plant that originated from a garden plant and a plant that has been native all its life. Then there are naturalised plants where a plant was introduced many years ago maybe by the Normans or Romans and then ‘escaped’ and continued ever since. At what point does escaped become naturalised? When it can maintain itself, I suppose. Recently a lot has be said about invasive alien plants like Japanese Hog weed or Winter Helliotrope. These seem to be plants that have come to this county in and accidental way,maybe as contaminants in batches of agricultural seed, or maybe as a garden plant and stocked in garden centers and then become established in the countryside but in so doing they are having a detrimental effect on the native wild flower stock. All very complex and with lots of overlap.